Two Liberal Democrat peers quit the party

News came through yesterday that Baroness Zahida Manzoor, has quit the party as she is opposed to our policy following the EU Referendum: This comes after Emma Nicholson apparently left us for the same reasons last month. Politics Home has the details.

A Liberal Democrat spokesperson told PoliticsHome: “Baroness Manzoor has resigned the whip as she disagrees with our view that we should be at the heart of Europe.

“We are disappointed with her decision as it is the Liberal Democrats who are standing up for hope and unity in the face of Brexit.

“More than 18,000 new members take the opposite view and have joined the Liberal Democrats since the EU referendum because of our position on Europe.”

Emma Nicholson’s decision was revealed by The Times last month, with the response from the party headquarters: “Emma who?”

She was elected as Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon in 1987 and served as vice-chair of the Tory party before defecting in 1995. She joined the House of Lords in 1997.

Baroness Manzoor, who was ennobled less than three years ago, has also resigned her frontbench post as Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokeswoman.

Last year she took a leading role in the Lords’ battle against tax credits.

There is some speculation that Baroness Manzoor may join the Conservative Party. Nick Clegg’s decision to give her a peerage surprised people in 2013 as few had been aware that she had any connection to the party or commitment to it. It would be very strange if she were to join the Tories after she was so pivotal in forcing that u-turn on tax credits. She apparently stunned colleagues by announcing that she was leaving on the last day before the parliamentary recess.

The Tories’ opposition to the EU was one of the reasons Emma Nicholson joined us in the first place, and she served as MEP for a decade. This Herald profile of her from 1995 looks at her life and career.

Just three months ago, she wrote for us about the need to keep working against sexual violence in conflict.

More too must also be done to bring the perpetrators of these vile crimes to justice. We owe it to each and every person that has suffered in this way to ensure the barbaric criminals responsible are punished severely.

In my other life as Chairman of the medical and educational NGO, the AMAR International Charitable Foundation, I have met countless victims of sexual violence in almost a quarter of a century of visiting and working in war zones.

Every single time their dreadful stories make my blood boil. It has to stop. Now.

The Lords group has lost some of its most able performers in the last few months through deaths, retirements and resignations. Many of them have been women – Shirley Williams, Veronica Linklater, Margaret Sharp and now Zahida Manzoor and Emma Nicholson to name but five.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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75 Comments

  • Why on Earth were people so opposed to our principles appointed in the first place. Yet again it seems Clegg and those around him failed basic diligence.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 5th Aug '16 - 9:49am

    It is very sad that these women feel unable to continue in the party.
    I do not really know exactly what lay behind their decision, so it is difficult to comment, but William’s suggestion that people who were “so opposed to our principles” should not have been appointed in the first place, seems unfair.
    I am guessing that they were not necessarily opposed to Britain’s membership of the EU, but are merely opposed to recent suggestions that the result of the referendum should be ignored. If this is their position, then it would be most unfair to suggest that they are opposed to our principles. It might just mean that they consider our principle of belief in democracy to be even more important than our principle of support for the EU.

  • “Nick Clegg’s decision to give her a peerage surprised people in 2013 as few had been aware that she had any connection to the party or commitment to it.”

    Shouldn’t that read “Nick Clegg’s decision to give her a peerage surprised few people in 2013 as none had been aware that she had any connection to the party or commitment to it.”

    I suppose someone thought it clever to say Emma who ? But actually it really reflects of the Party that even their Peers are unknown and unimportant to HQ. People like Margaret Sharp, with a fantastic intellect, formidable political judgement, a great campaigner, a vast hinterland outside the Westminster bubble have been woefully under used by the Party.

  • I THINK there is still a 1992 Tory poster board in a tree south of Holsworthy (towards Launceston) entreating people to “Vote Emma NICHOLSON, Conservative” in old – fashioned Tory blue!! I remember spending a few hours at a social / fundraising event at her home near Winkleigh, fairly soon after she defected to us. Charming lady, very strong views, in particular about Iraq and its people. I cannot imagine why she might return to today’s Tories.

  • PS Can’t remember exactly what, but I believe Emma had family connections among Tory bigwigs, which may have coloured her original party choice.

  • Adrian Sanders 5th Aug '16 - 10:29am

    I share the view of Caracatus that it was not clever to say Emma who. It reflects badly even were it true, but to a certain generation of political activists and in particular those from the South West her defection from the Tories was an unlikely to be forgotten event. The press office is normally good on these things but on this occassion seems to have fallen into the Westminster bubble trap the Party needs to escape from in order to rise beyond single figures in the national opinion polls.

  • David Allen 5th Aug '16 - 10:51am

    “Emma who!”, and “few had been aware that she had any connection to the party or commitment to it”, smack of Corbynism, and indeed Stalinism. Once you fall out with the Party, you become an un-person. Not very Liberal!

  • I agree with others on Emma Who? I’ve always been aware of her and was delighted when she joined us in 1995 and when she became a peer and MEP.

    I suspect that the reaction quoted from the Press Office could be down to having misheard what was being said. It seems unlikely that they would say something like that deliberately.

    Paul, I’m hearing it was the EU – which seems unlikely. I can’t see her going back to the Tories after what she experienced in that party.

    David: I think that there were some peerages handed out during the Clegg years that surprised people and it’s not wrong to say that without denigrating the individuals concerned. Your insulting language is a bit hyperbolic, I think.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Aug '16 - 11:32am

    Emma Nicholson’s memoirs show that she was on the liberal wing of the tory party and did not get elected as MP until she moved to Devon. She wanted to be an MEP and topped the female list at Tonbridge castle. The Lords has independent crossbenchers as Gordon Brown’s nominations provide ample evidence.

  • Mark Smulian 5th Aug '16 - 11:34am

    News of Emma Nicholson’s defection was in the current issue of Liberator. This quoted a letter she sent to Lib Dem peers which said, in the context of Tim’s reaction to the referendum: “I deeply and sadly regret that the new policy is one that I simply cannot follow and worse than that it is a policy to which I am profoundly and very strongly opposed.” The letter did not elaborate on why.
    Manzoor’s appointment caused bafflement at the time, when she was reported to be a personal friend of the Cleggs.

  • paul barker 5th Aug '16 - 11:40am

    It is sad to lose both these Peers but there will be a lot of Politicians moving in all directions as a result of Brexit. Several Parties will probably break up as a result of the Leave vote & in the long run, we are probably the only Party that will gain from it.

  • I am sure Catherine Jane, you have a good point. I have heard several Lib Dems complaining that “we can’t ignore the people’s view”. This is, of course, countered by the fact that that choice was often shaped by long-term distortions, especially from the media, and even outright lies such as the £350 million lie. And the fact that given a choice of what Leave actually is likely to mean, many people voting Leave with the idea that any change is a good change, would not make the same choice in another poll. It was also more than stupid to allow a poll to go ahead, even an “advisory” poll on fundamental constitutional issue without putting a two-thirds or similar majority for change on it. No tinpot local society would allow major change on the basis of a simple majority!

  • “Why on Earth were people so opposed to our principles appointed in the first place”

    Member ship of a specific supranational grouping with particular institutions is a principal? Hardly.

    You can be internationalist but oppose the EU. You can also be in favour of UK member ship of the EU but accept the referendum result and want to see what the best can be done within the decision the public has taken.

    The “Emma Who” comment beggars belief, I hope someone in HQ is very embarrassed by having made that response. Wrong on a principled level, but also in a pragmatic sense in so many ways.

    Any party who claims to be liberal should try and understand why members who are liberal want to leave the party.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Aug '16 - 1:45pm

    This is deeply troubling . Emma Nicholson is one of the finest in the Lords . The comments from Head office must be genuine lack of knowledge on the part of the person , if otherwise , that person should be reprimanded as a disgrace.

    As for any other peers leaving , the same applies to any member .Why are they doing so, ?If it is the approach of Tim Farron since the Brexit decision , that is something we must find out .Tim does not make policy , there is not a policy that we re enter the EU nor has there been a debate , we cannot re enter what we have not yet left , and if we have left the EU by the election then a vague long term committment to put it to the public is the best the EU philes can muster , as the public will not want in out okeekokee as a policy !

    Tim needs to moderate and lead by consent on policy , as he usually does.

    We cannot lose people on issues where all in our party are, including keen new members,measured and moderate, especially in these difficult issues. If our radicalism does not extend to criticism of the EU as well as support ,we are lacking what we alone can now provide . A space for intelligent deliberation.

    Tim , get policy right , it is our decision to make as a party

  • Psi
    But it was a principle. Admittedly in 1987/8 the structure and functions of Europe were not the same exactly, but our constitution’s preamble of that date states categorically that we support the Community, and federalism. I do think, however, as stated above, that Tim’s approach of getting round or over the referendum result is more likely to be a sticking point, rather than continuing support for the EU, which every active member of the Party has known since time immemorial!

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Aug '16 - 2:15pm

    I keep reading about the Lords planning on blocking or delaying brexit. People should accept that the true pro EU thing to do is now leave. We’ve seen how angry Hollande got when he was demanding an answer from Theresa May why they have to wait for Article 50.

    We are no longer wanted in Europe. I thought the decision could be blocked but things have changed. Our only hope to stay in is a new set of EU leaders who say “all is forgiven” rather than “get out and stop the uncertainty, and hopefully we’ll pinch some of your banks and car manufacturers too”.

  • We’ve seen how angry Hollande got when he was demanding an answer from Theresa May why they have to wait for Article 50.

    Having worked at board level in French companies, I would say that Hollande’s ‘anger’ was more “for the cameras” than real. Yes it can be intimidating to be on the receiving end, but I learnt to simply stand my ground and state my case – on each occasion we ended up afterwards having a good-humoured meal and an accommodation of each other’s viewpoint at subsequent meetings.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Aug '16 - 3:17pm

    Roland, thanks, I’m perfectly fine ruffling some feathers, but on the topic of the Lords and the EU I think those who are strongly pro EU and generally don’t like annoying EU leaders should think about whether we are actually wanted in the EU anymore and if the uncertainty is good.

    Having said that, I’m fine not issuing article 50 if the result of the negotiations is poor. Maybe these threats to block brexit contributed to the peers leaving?

  • David Allen 5th Aug '16 - 5:35pm

    “I thought the decision could be blocked but things have changed. Our only hope to stay in is a new set of EU leaders who say “all is forgiven” ”

    As someone else said above, the one thing we can’t do is the hokey-cokey, and flip about between In and Out. Leaving would be a horrendous administrative burden. Rejoining would be an equally horrendous process, creating yet more appalling economic dislocation. So if we leave, I can’t see us ever rejoining.

    It follows that, if we believe that we belong in Europe, we simply have to fight against leaving.

  • So sad about Emma – a great person of remarkable courage and integrity.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Aug '16 - 8:06pm

    Iraq was an important issue, which has moved on. Saddam dried out the marshes because of his policy towards Marsh Arabs, an ecological and human rights disaster, since partially reversed.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 5th Aug '16 - 8:16pm

    Look at this link about a lib dem poster http://www.ukipdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Lib_Dem_Clegg_Leaflet_inout.jpg

    It would appear that the lib dems campaigned to have a referendum on the European Union and respect the result. Only when given the choice in 2010-2015 they wanted no such thing and blocked the referendum. And in 2016 after a referendum taking place despite their objections it appears they want the result overturned?

    Surely it’s no surprise that people leave if they find out the lib dems aren’t what they thought they were?

  • So a UKIP web site is to be our source of objective information. What a larf !

  • Sad they’ve left, but better fairweather friends leave than cause trouble inside.

  • Stevan Rose 5th Aug '16 - 11:23pm

    Such losses are regrettable; if you disagree with a particular policy then stand up and say so and Emma Nicholson is no shrinking violet. So I would think there’s far more to it and that remark from HQ suggests a serious falling out with no way back.

    There’s a real danger we end up as a party of Brexit denial, failing to develop an alternative non-EU plan to present to the electorate. Instead of denial and a policy to cancel/rejoin we should really be campaigning for an EFTA/EEA Brexit plan. Unless we really want the Three Stooges to have a clear run. Or maybe that’s the plan in some fiendishly complex double bluff strategy.

  • Peter Watson 5th Aug '16 - 11:41pm

    @Tim Hill “So a UKIP web site is to be our source of objective information. What a larf !”
    I’m a bit confused. Are you implying that the campaign poster was not a genuine Lib Dem one about an in/out referendum?
    The poster was discussed on this site in 2013 and apparently dates from 2008: https://www.libdemvoice.org/the-surprising-truth-about-that-lib-dem-inout-eu-referendum-leaflet-32686.html
    But long-standing support for the principle of an in/out referendum was still there in the 2015 manifesto (albeit in the event of “Treaty change involving a material transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU”) which is why I can’t reconcile that with the position taken by many Lib Dems of calling for the result of just such a referendum to be ignored or overturned.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 6th Aug '16 - 12:05am

    Tim Hill

    Cannot agree , Emma Nicholson,21 years as a Liberal Democrat , in the role of an MEP, a peer and a trade ambassador during the coalition , a loss we cannot tolerate without more understanding of the issues , I would ask anyone who knows more to let us know , this seems sudden only a few weeks after the wretched referendum

    David Raw

    What can you add, your comments very heartfelt and appreciated by me on this , David , it saddens me to.

  • Hollande’s fake anger is nothing compared to the real anger that French voters have against his leadership. If he thinks that talking tough with the UK is a vote-winner with the French then he is as wrong now as he has been wrong on everything else.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/francois-hollande-s-popularity-rating-descends-to-record-low-poll-claims-a6989676.html

    I have long been pro-European and Liberal but I always presumed it was just a coincidence. Neither did I presume that pro-European and pro-EU were necessarily the same thing, especially since the latters dictatorial nature has hardened. Surely different opinions are still allowed in the Liberal establishment. Most folk I know who voted remain – including Clegg and many other big name Libdems did so on the basis that the EU was in dire need of reform but we were probably better off attempting that from the inside. Camerons humiliations proved to me that was a pipe dream.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 6th Aug '16 - 1:13am

    Stevan rose is right. The lib dems are becoming the brexit denial party. To rejoin without a democratic vote to rejoin after a democratic vote to leave is a ridiculous policy, especially from a democratic party that once called for a referendum. I doubt the eu would take the uk under such terms because it would appear to be rejoining without the consent of its people which wouldn’t lead to the uk being a stable partner and woukd fuel UKIP.

    The result must be honoured as it ended the debate as to should the uk be a member of the European Union, the result gave the answer to that question, the result was a clear no by over 1.000.000 votes.

    The debate now is what does life outside the European Union look like? Both the Tories and UKIP argue that it is a uk without the free movement of people and therefore is a UK without unfettered access to the common market. The lib dems position should be that it looks like an EEA deal with the four freedoms. Not that the result should be overturned.

  • These moves are all the more inexplicable given that Party policy remains, in many respects, unclear (as indeed does the situation) and there is much room for both influence and interpretation as to how that policy will be reflected in politics. Why would one choose to leave the Party, if there were some policy difference, rather than remaining inside and striving to influence the Party in a preferred direction? I suppose that there might be more to this story than has been publicly stated.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 6th Aug '16 - 8:30am

    Emma Nicholson has a long track record of wholehearted support for the EU. She was very liberal in her outlook, even when she was a member of the Conservative Party. She has said that she entered politics because she wanted to bring about social change.
    Her defection from the Conservative Party to the Lib Dems in the 1990s was a principled step. It is clear that her decision to leave the Liberal Democrat Party now, is also on an issue of principle.
    Although she has not given much detail about her reasons, she has said that she has been unable to follow the “new” policy since the result, and strongly disagrees with some of Tim Farron’s recent statements. The reference to a “new” policy makes it clear that she is not opposed to the party’s support for the EU, which is a longstanding policy which she has always supported, but that she is opposed to suggestions that the result of the referendum should be ignored.
    It is very sad that someone with such a long track record of liberalism and support for the EU, feels unable to continue in the party. Personally I feel that it would have been better if Emma Nicholson had stayed in the party, expressed her views openly, and tried to influence party policy. But she has obviously decided that she feels unable to do so.
    She deserves thanks and appreciation for her contribution to the party over many years. She does not deserve the unpleasant and intolerant remarks that have been made in some of the comments on this post.

  • I think it is entirely possible that they do not support Tim Farrons policy or at least his policy as it appears to be presented. I am opposed to Brexit and campaigned to remain, I dont want us to leave and if we do leave I want us to have the closest possible relationships with Europe and the EU. But if we leave the EU I would not support us rejoining UNLESS we can rejoin on the terms we had before we left. As I understand it that would not be on offer and in order to rejoin we would need to join both the Euro and the Schengen Area. At a recent meeting of members in West Berkshire to discuss the implications of the Brexit vote this was one of seven points on which we were agreed. Any such policy which would commit us to rejoining the EU on such terms needs to be fully debated by conference before becoming party policy. I sincerely hope that conference would reject such a policy.

  • Chris Lewcock 6th Aug '16 - 8:43am

    Agree on all points with Catherine Jane Crosland.

    The need for Paul Walter’s “clarification” rather makes the point that this new policy is easily misunderstood or misinterpreted by (a) a generally hostile press as putting up two fingers to the electorate and (b) by Party Members as bouncing the Party into a line that they might, if asked, prefer not to follow – or at least would like more time to think about. Top down policy-making by sound-bite can sometimes bite back (see also bombing Syria?).

  • Very sad that Emma Nicholson, a courageous and principled politician, decided to leave over the party’s stance on EU going forward.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Aug '16 - 9:52am

    Obviously this is a time of confusion and uncertainty, and it is very sad about Emma Nicholson’s going, whatever her reasons. For my part, I was one of those doubtful about Tim’s initial utterances on the Referendum result, trying to reconcile party democratic decision-making with the Leader’s right to lead. I also agree with the comments about the difficulty and unlikelihood of us ever rejoining, if once we leave the EU. I think the way forward is probably Paul Walter’s suggestion, above: to seek the consent of the people in a General Election to overturn the result, by majority voting for candidates who wish to remain.

  • Simon Banks 6th Aug '16 - 9:53am

    I trust these intelligent and well-informed people would not have left the party because of a mythical policy of ignoring the referendum result. Tim Farron and the vast majority of Liberal Democrats are working within the result, trying to reduce the damage, but take the position that at the next election they’ll campaign to rejoin (or stay in, if it’s a snap election). That’s not ignoring the result, or any party that loses an election and continues to fight for most of its policies would be ignoring the result.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 6th Aug '16 - 10:03am

    @Paul Walter.

    I think the lib dem position is understood perfectly well.

    If the lib dems were to win a general election under FPTP with say 37% of the vote and then use that majority in parliament to rejoin wouldn’t that be Undemocratic? Anyway it’s nonsense because the eu would not accept the UK back in those circumstances because it wouldn’t be clear that the majority wanted to rejoin, just that clear that a party that wanted to rejoin won an election with less than half the vote.

  • Katharine Pindar 6th Aug '16 - 10:12am

    Brief amendment – of course it is sad about BOTH the admirable peers quitting the party, and one hopes they can be persuaded back in due course. And Tim made his position much clearer in later interviews. Also I suppose that if we don’t have an early General Election (and possibly Teresa May is thinking along those lines too), Stevan Rose’s wish for an EFTA/EEA Brexit plan might be the next best option.

  • Peter Watson 6th Aug '16 - 10:42am

    @Paul Walters “That’s a legitimate and honourable position.”
    I agree that a policy for the next election is more legitimate, honourable and democratic than simply ignoring the referendum, which is why I often find myself mangling words trying to refer to “the position of many Lib Dems” rather than “the Lib Dem position”.
    However, I do think the policy is misguided. This far out from an election it would seem more sensible to reaffirm strong Lib Dem support for the EU without creating the hostage to fortune of a specific pledge (not that word again!) to rejoin. Also, I always thought that Lib Dem policy was determined by the membership but this seemed to come directly from the office of the leader and may or may not reflect the position of most Lib Dems.

  • Tony Dawson 6th Aug '16 - 10:43am

    I had previously thought most of the ‘prima donnas’ in the Liberal Democrats were male. 😉

    It is disappointing to not have any depth of explanation for these resignations although I do think some are going OTT in reaction to them. Some of the responses above, especially concerning Emma Nicholson, read more like obituaries.

    Baroness Manzoor’s resignation reminds me of the worrying response which i received a couple of weeks ago from friends in two different Asian communities who both voted Brexit. They seriously thought a post-Brexit government which made it harder for Eastern Europeans to come to the UK would make it easier for Asian sub continent immigrants to be allowed to come here. I am serious. How did we allow this madness?

  • Christopher Haigh 6th Aug '16 - 11:54am

    @Tony Dawson. Because that was the unchallenged line of argument put over by Kate Hoey on the ‘impartial’ BBC Daily Politics programme.

  • I actually agree with John Wheaver about the lies that were told, the blatant distortions etc. The trouble is, if you banned everyone who told appalling lies in public elections there would be quite a large number of political corpses lying (I use the word advisedly!) around. What makes this particular case, but often for those of us fighting the right in politics, is that the media overwhelmingly backs such lies, so making it difficult for the ordinary punter to make out what is going on.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 6th Aug '16 - 8:33pm

    I am now less clear on what the lib dems believe than ever.

    Do they believe a referendum is a legitimate way to resolve a constitutional issue such as what voting system do we use, should Scotland be an independent country or should we remain in the EU or not?

    If so does the result of a clear majority trump the will of MPs elected under FPTP or not?

    Should a referendum require more than just a majority to pass and change the status quo? If so, should that have applied to the Scottish independence referendum, the AV referendum and a referendum on PR if they ever get it?

    Does dishonesty in an election campaign invalidate the result? If so should that apply to Carmichael or the tuition fees promise or what? What exactly are the conditions for saying someone cheated so an election result isn’t valid?

  • david thorpe 6th Aug '16 - 8:59pm

    this shows the danger of the party saying ‘we are only ones united on the issue of europe’ no credibility-oh dear.

    and i can believe the press office would be that stupid…

  • Shirley Campbell 7th Aug '16 - 12:04am

    Yes:
    Catherine Jane Crosland 6th Aug ’16 – 8:30am
    Emma Nicholson has a long track record of wholehearted support for the EU. She was very liberal in her outlook, even when she was a member of the Conservative Party. She has said that she entered politics because she wanted to bring about social change.
    Her defection from the Conservative Party to the Lib Dems in the 1990s was a principled step. It is clear that her decision to leave the Liberal Democrat Party now, is also on an issue of principle.
    Although she has not given much detail about her reasons, she has said that she has been unable to follow the “new” policy since the result, and strongly disagrees with some of Tim Farron’s recent statements. The reference to a “new” policy makes it clear that she is not opposed to the party’s support for the EU, which is a longstanding policy which she has always supported, but that she is opposed to suggestions that the result of the referendum should be ignored.
    It is very sad that someone with such a long track record of liberalism and support for the EU, feels unable to continue in the party. Personally I feel that it would have been better if Emma Nicholson had stayed in the party, expressed her views openly, and tried to influence party policy. But she has obviously decided that she feels unable to do so.
    She deserves thanks and appreciation for her contribution to the party over many years. She does not deserve the unpleasant and intolerant remarks that have been made in some of the comments on this post.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 7th Aug '16 - 12:24am

    Andrea Clifton

    Thank you very much for your kind comments , I really appreciate that.

  • Tony Dawson’s comments are perceptive on the probable motives for these 2 resignations from HoL representatives, i.e.
    1. Baroness Emma Nicholson has had a good run in politics in senior roles. The media aren’t paying much attention to the Lib Dems at the moment, and it may take a good few years for the party to get back its profile and more than 2 dozen MPs. It’s a good moment for her to break involvement, and if it isn’t her political orbituary, she might more likely be asked by the May govt to lead some quango or 2 as a crossbench peer than as a LibDem one.

    2. Baroness Manzoor: I don’t think she’s had such a long political run in senior roles- I may be ignorant, but have barely heard of her. Tony Dawson’s Asian friends really aren’t that unusual in their view, and could well be correct. A possible outcome of Brexit is a need to massively increase the civil service with well-educated english speakers to take on the greater regulation burden that we had effectively pooled with the EU. Such non-economically productive jobs won’t go to Britain’s “left behinders’ who voted for Brexit (!!), but to middle class educated young people from commonwealth countries, like Australia and India. And some people are reverting away from liberalism as the fulcrum of politics towards sectarianism/nationalism.

    It’s always sad to lose people, but that’s the way it is. However super these 2 ones may have been in the past, they’ve taken an opportunity to bail out now, on rather tenuous* principles rather than fight for the LibDems’ principles in hard times for the party.

    *Baroness Nicholson says the leader was apparently suggesting to ignore the democratic will of the people to leave the EU by saying the party would continue for Britain to be at the heart of EU and to rejoin some day, to which she took sharp exception. But since when has being a member of the HoL got to do with democratic will?

  • Rightsaidfredfan 7th Aug '16 - 2:59am

    It’s tragic that a party that believed in democracy wishes to use the FPTP system to overturn s clear result gained in a democratic referendum, and totally unnecessary too in my opinion, there is still plenty to fight for. The fight should now be about the type of relationship we will have with the eu outside it.

    Anyway I don’t think think any other party would dare do this, even if FPTP does allow most MPs to be pro eu when the public aren’t. Demanding that parliament ignore the majority of the population is also not compatible with saying we need or so parliament reflects the wishes of the majority. I think this policy will lose the liberal democratically votes. Sure 48% wanted to stay in the eu, most of that 48% will also believe the result should be accepted.

  • Even more to the point, isn’t it the job of a party, not to blindly follow the one-time choice of a narrow majority, but rather attempt to create a majority in support of its own consistent views?

  • Rightsaidfredfan 7th Aug '16 - 12:58pm

    “David-1 7th Aug ’16 – 4:18am
    Even more to the point, isn’t it the job of a party, not to blindly follow the one-time choice of a narrow majority, but rather attempt to create a majority in support of its own consistent views?”

    Well a referendum is a means to settle an issue, it counts for more as a direct expression of the will of the people than the opinions of elected representatives do. Some here have argued that a referendum isn’t a legitimate way to put an issue to rest for a generation saying that direct democracy isn’t legitimate and that the only the will of parliament (I.e. The will of the of elected representatives matters). If that is so then Scotland should be independent because it’s only the people of Scotland who don’t want independence, almost all Scottish MPs and the majority of MSPs want independence. And by that thinking had the lib dems won the AV referendum parliament would be justified in saying we don’t care lets just stick with FPTP.

    The lib dems do not have to agree with the result but they should respect it. They can campaign to change people’s minds and one day try to rejoin. But we left following a referendum so it will require another referendum to rejoin and that shouldn’t happen for at least a generation. The lib dems would be better trying to get a Brexit deal with the four freedoms in my opinion, because that honours the referendum result whilst still giving them most of what they want.

  • Leave The EU 7th Aug '16 - 3:51pm

    @Simon Shaw – “But it wasn’t a “clear result”. It was a very narrow (as in less than 2% majority) in favour of exit.” – surely about 3.8% more voted to leave – granted that might not seem huge, however with a very large turnout, that amount was well over a million voters (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/eu_referendum/results). All the best and peace.

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Aug '16 - 5:05pm

    LTE
    Any parliamentary seat with a 3.8% majority would be considered supermarginal and would definitely be a target for the party in second place. It was a close result in a very large electorate and the number of votes involved is really not relevant.

    If it had been a football match the score would have been 13-12 and no-one would be talking about overwhelming victories.

    This idea of referendums “settling things for a generation” only ever exists in the minds of the victors. However votes of 67% to 33% as in the first EU referendum can be considered to settle things for a long time (41 years, in this case). Proportionally speaking, I guess 4 years would be about the half-life of the second EU referendum. It all depends on what happens to public opinion in the next 6-18 months, I would say

  • Rightsaidfredfan 7th Aug '16 - 5:08pm

    @simon Shaw “But it wasn’t a “clear result”. It was a very narrow (as in less than 2% majority) in favour of exit. If it had been a 2% margin in favour of remain then nobody would have imagined that would have settled it for a generation (although I am sure some would have claimed it did).” – I couldn’t disagree with you more, although perhaps I’m using a different meaning of the word “clear” than you are? It wasn’t an overwhelming majority (but then neither was the Scottish independence referendum). A majority is simply 50% + at least one vote. Sometimes when there are just a few votes in it the result is in doubt and therefore not clear and it needs to be recounted or it goes to court (think hanging chads in Florida in the year 2000). But in this case there can be no doubt which side won. 16 million votes on one side and just over 17 million votes on the other, leave won by over a million votes. The result is therefore absolutely crystal clear. After a debate and the government and all mainstream parties campaigning for remain the majority was leave and the result cannot be in doubt. Claims like 350 million per week for the NHS weren’t honest but using tax payers money to leaflet each house didn’t seem fair either. Campaigns are never clean and lies and broken promises didn’t seem to invalidate elections before.

    “Speaking personally I never accepted the case for a referendum anyway, and I spoiled my ballot to say so.” May I ask why not? The case seems clear enough to me. A party won a majority of the seats in parliament by promising to hold a referendum and respect the results. Are you saying that the Tories should not have honoured their manifesto after being elected on a promise to hold the referendum? Or are you saying its illegitimate for a party to make a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on a subject?

    Can I also ask if you spoiled your ballot in the AV referendum too? Given that it’s highly unlikely that parliament will ever change the voting system to PR without giving the people the final say on the matter would you spoil your ballot during a PR referendum or would it be illegitimate to even ask the question? Or should we just say that the threshold for making a change like that is now 60%.

    Should Scotland be given independence despite a clear majority of its population being against it because most of Scotland’s elected representatives want it (56 out of 59 MPs and the majority of MSPs)?

  • Leave The EU 7th Aug '16 - 6:27pm

    @Simon Shaw + Andrew McCaig – To be clear, I never argued against someone wanting to try to make another referendum some time in future – just making the point that the result could perhaps be seen as “well over the line”: 1.25 million+ votes pro-Brexit despite the “kitchen sink being thrown at” pro-remaining in the EU (Obama / IMF / other global leaders and organisations, et al): the effort to keep the UK in the EU was fairly extreme and perhaps would be somewhat hard to be trumped any time soon. All the best and peace.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 7th Aug '16 - 7:03pm

    @Simon Shaw ” I certainly wouldn’t as I believe in representative parliamentary democracy. What that means is that if a party/parties supporting exit subsequently won a General Election then they would be perfectly entitled to take the UK out of the EU.”

    So you’re saying that an election winner/winners can and should effectively do what they like providing they tell the public what they are going to do before hand?

    In which case, surely a party that promises before the election to hold a referendum and honour the result after winning an election should do just that, hold the referendum and honour the result? In which case why waste your opportunity to have your say and spoil a perfectly legitimate ballot? How would you feel if leave had won by one vote?

    PS. I also don’t think you’d like the result of what you advocate in practice. The result of a general election where the lib dems, SNP, Tories and labour fight an election on a promise to rejoin the eu would be a UKIP landslide. And If they didn’t explicitly promise it and won and did it anyway a UKIP landslide at the next.

  • @ Rightsaidfred etc…..”Should Scotland be given independence despite a clear majority of its population being against it because most of Scotland’s elected representatives want it (56 out of 59 MPs and the majority of MSPs)?”

    You’re a bit out of date Freddy old boy. My observation here is that the result of the EU referendum has produced a sea change in Scotland and I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if there was a different result in a future Independence Referendum.

  • Rightsaidfredfan 7th Aug '16 - 7:47pm

    @Simon Shaw “I don’t believe in referendums save in very limited circumstances – which electoral system to use being one of them.”

    I agree that there would have to be a referendum to change the electoral system, it would be pretty appalling for MPs to get into power and use that power to change the rules under which they are elected without giving the public the final say. No serious party would do that either. The risk of a voter backlash would be enormous. The only way this country will ever use PR for a general election is via a referendum.

    FPTP is beginning to look less and less legitimate now so whether you want to replace it with PR or continue to use it, either way I think there needs to be a national referendum on the issue. So, in the event that happens, should we say a clear win > 50% settles it and the voting system can be changed with a simple majority? In those circumstances surely 51% in favour of PR would be a clear win for PR? Or should we invent extra hurdles? Some have suggested on here that a referendum needs a super majority to be valid.

    Also, does the fact the SNP won almost every single Scottish seat and the fact that most MSPs favor independence mean we should have Scottish independence by legislation regardless of how the Scottish people feel about it?

  • Andrew McCaig 7th Aug '16 - 8:03pm

    LtEU

    I think I would argue that most of the “kitchen sink” simply reinforced the anti-establishment feeling amongst potential Leave supporters. Having the person with one of the worst approval ratings in the country fronting the campaign and getting 45% of the total media coverage was always going to make things hard….

    If there was a campaign where Labour activists actually campaigned in the council estates and tried to raise the Remain vote there up to 30-40%, the result would be very different. Instead they gave up in favour of canvassing areas with high Remain votes among students and young professionals (and yes, I met several Labour activists from Normanton who had done just that).

  • Leave The EU 7th Aug '16 - 8:18pm

    @Simon Shaw – please note I “do not have a chip on my shoulder” in terms of this – I just simply thought that leaving the EU was akin to jumping off a boat likely going over a waterfall – nothing personal about it – closer might be 100s of thousands of voters difference and the result was greater than that: 1.25 million+ people is a whole bunch of voters. All the best and peace.

    @Andrew McCaig – noted at what you said about Labour – however also in referendums the status quo may apparently carry weight – that is perhaps why so many were surprised that Leave did win, despite immense efforts by Cameron/Obama/IMF etc. to stop that happening – in a rerun with Leave being the default option, they would have the advantage in that sense and considering they already won, then theoretically harder to unseat. Peace and all the best.

  • Richard Underhill 8th Aug '16 - 7:31am

    Tory chief whip Edward Heath brought Sir Winston Churchill from a dinner at the Savoy for a vote in the Commons and apologised for doing so. The PM was in evening dress, so the Labour front bench laughed at him, which he took in good part. The government won the vote. The PM to the whip “One is enough”. Source: Heath’s memoirs.
    I was told that on 24 June 2016 that Nigel Farage MEP expected to lose and had said that if Remain won by a small majority the fight would go on.
    Referendums are happening more often. The elapsed time since the previous one does not determine the elapsed time until the next one.

  • Denis Loretto 8th Aug '16 - 9:42am

    Of course “the fight must go on”. The question is “what is the fight?” The Liberal Democrats must campaign as the outward – looking party who will in particular keep the UK working together with the other member states in our continent and beyond that to work with other continents to achieve a better world. That means seeking the closest possible relationship with the EU including finding a way back to membership if the consent of the British people to such an outcome can be won. What I think we must not do – and I look to the conference in a few weeks time to clarify this – is to give an absolute pledge to take the UK back into the EU. Tony Ferguson, some way back in this thread (sorry I’ve just come back from holiday) sets out some of the reasons why this just isn’t on. I’ve spoken to several senior party members who are distinctly uncomfortable with the “pledge” approach – and not only because of the chilling echo of tuition fees. I fear that it is this pledge thing that has led to the two noble ladies leaving and I think someone high up needs to speak out (none better than Tim Farron) to steady the ship.

  • Tim13

    “But it was a principle”

    So if the EU had morphed in to an illiberal authoritarian institution (which it wasn’t despite what the leave campaign claimed) the principled stance would have been to remain? The principal would have been internationalism and cooperation with European neighbours, the best policy of achieving this was remaining in the EU.

    The fact that it became considered a principle is understand able given the history of the formation of the SDP and the merger but that doesn’t make it correct. That mind set made the LibDems look like religious followers of the religion of the EU and obscured any desire for what reforms the EU needed (or even evidence to the outside of discussion of this).

  • I do think that that ‘Emma Who’ comment is wilfully ignorant, or worse. The party got a huge filip when she left the Tories and joined us, and it seems fair to say that the influx of liberal former tories settled in at least as well as the former labour/former sdp.

  • Bernard Aris 9th Aug '16 - 1:46am

    I joined the LibDems as a foreign (Dutch) supporter (subcription to the LibDem News weekly, and sending over money once in a while) at the Blackpool Autumn Conference back in 1991 or ’92.

    I too remember the exhilaration about somebody like Mrs. Nicolson joining the LibDems over Europe in those early 1990’s, when we were recovering from the merger and the short-lived opposition of Owens rump SDP; and am sad to see her go now.
    But in contrat with Mrs. Mazoor she could not possibly have been mistaken about the level of commitment in the LibDem party for the EU, even in its present state (The Economist musing about France exiting the EU).
    Maybe she won’t rejoin the Tories (wo’v e been putting eurosceptic, lying Brexiteers in key Cabinet posts) but she could join David Owen as a maverick, sometimes supporting, sometimes opposing the LibDems. On deafness and sexual violence she still will be on our side; and the same goes for her criticizing practices around international adoptions and support on Freedom House issues (I’m refering to her Wikipedia item here).
    Owen could join the centrist split-off (mainly dissident MP’s) from Labour if Corbyn wins the leadership shambles; maybe Nicolson could do so too.

  • Belinda Brooks-Gordo 9th Aug '16 - 1:25pm

    I think it is a great shame that two women who have given service to the party have left. I need to add to the comment of Caractacus and agree with his estimation of Margaret Sharp’s wonderful talents, but point out Margaret was not underused by the party. Rather, not all of her sterling and energetic work on committees, various education Bills, our own education policy working groups, where she brought her experience as an economist and an academic, was seen by everyone. It was, however, much appreciated by those of us who worked with her on some of these groups.

    By contrast, the impression of Zahida, when I invited her to join the Equalities policy working group in December 2013 when she was a new peer, was that she was having difficulty fitting in all that is required of a working peer. I received a baffling email listing health policy as the reason she could not attend even some of the meetings on equality, even when the offer was made to arrange the meeting dates to suit her schedule. I hope now that she has found a way to balance the workload.

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